The Mariners Get Morse (Change One Letter and it’s “Worse”)

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Anyone else see the irony of the Mariners and their GM Jack Zduriencik having traded Mike Morse in 2009 while Zduriencik was in the midst of an overachieving first season at the helm and being called a genius, and has reacquired Morse four years later when he’s possibly a losing first half away from being fired?

Or that he traded Morse for the essentially useless Ryan Langerhans and has now traded John Jaso to get Morse back when, with or without Morse, the Mariners are only staying out of last place because the Astros are in the AL West?

The deal, on its surface, isn’t a bad one for the Mariners. All they surrendered was Jaso, but considering their likely finish in 2013, why bother? Why bother doing anything the Mariners have done since the 2012 season ended from moving in the fences at Safeco Field to making trades/signings for bats on the final year of their contracts or final years of their careers?

This is not a logical progression of being ready to win and making the requisite fill-in veteran acquisitions. It’s desperation on the part of Zduriencik—a worse desperation than Royals GM Dayton Moore was accused of when he acquired two big league starting pitchers in James Shields and Wade Davis, both of whom are under team control, in exchange for a large package of prospects. It was said that Moore is trying to save his job. Zduriencik? Where’s the criticism from the stat people who held him up as their totem before reality rendered them silent? On Fangraphs a few years ago the Mariners were labeled as the sixth best organization in baseball, thereby setting themselves and the Mariners up for endless ridicule with the Twitter hashtag #6org. Has there been an update or viable explanation? Or clinging in the hopes that it’ll all end up as the math having been “right”?

Let’s put this into simple terms. Over the four-plus years Zduriencik has been running the team, they rebuilt the farm system based on pitching and brought in players whose forte is defense. In year five of the rebuild, they’ve brought in the fences at Safeco Field, signed or traded for players for whom defense is a necessary evil, and changed the strategy on the fly not because it’s a natural evolution combined with intelligent design, but because what they were doing before didn’t work and now they’re doing something totally different.

If that’s the case, how are they moving forward with the same GM?

A team that had an eye on pitching and defense now has imported the weak defenders Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, Morse and the mediocre Kendrys Morales. In addition, they traded away Jaso, let Miguel Olivo leave as a free agent and are intent on replacing them behind the plate with Jesus Montero, for whom defense is the main weak point of his game and will have to handle a pitching staff who will already be compromised due to the new dimensions of their home park.

There’s no question that the Mariners needed offense and their offense will be better with the players they’ve acquired as well as Dustin Ackley and Montero, but how much worse will the pitching be with the new dimensions of Safeco Field?

In the past three seasons, their pitchers have posted the following OPS numbers home and away:

2010: .663 home, .768 road

2011: .667 home, .728 road

2012: .676 home, .777 road

In addition, the Mariners’ offense hasn’t just been bad in those same three seasons, it’s been historically bad. Since the 162 game schedule was implemented in 1961 (and bear in mind the numbers are slightly skewed by the strike shortened seasons of 1972, 1981 and 1994), the Mariners of 2010 and 2011 were in the top 100 of the lowest scoring clubs in baseball. That’s out of 1356 teams.

Will Morse, Ibanez, and Morales, plus a full sophomore season from Montero help the Mariners’ scoring improve? Yes. Will the defensive limitations of these players, that they’re in the lineup at the expense of stronger defensive players, plus the new dimensions of the Mariners’ home field hurt them? Absolutely.

This is while the Mariners are playing in a division with the high-priced Angels; the still very good Rangers; and the Athletics who won the division last season. The only beacon of hope the Mariners have is that the Astros are basically a Triple A team, keeping them from looking too terrible in comparison.

The Royals and Moore were savaged for the trade they made with the Rays. But they’re in a weaker division, have enough young talent to at least justify going for a marked improvement with established pitchers who’ve been on playoff teams, and will have those pitchers for a longer time than the Mariners will have the hitters they’ve brought in.

Where are the vitriolic attacks against what Zduriencik has built? Is his credibility based on his work or because he runs his club the way analysts who base their beliefs on stats would run their clubs? Is he being protected in a manner that Moore isn’t because he’s using “objectivity” while crafting a team that is, by all standards, horrific and is now worse than it was when he arrived?

There’s no room for personalities, biases, factionalism, bloodlines, and tribalism in purported objective analysis. Because Moore is the antithesis of what stat people want in a GM, he’s a punching bag whenever it suits them; but Zduriencik exemplifies that which Moore was accused of when he traded Wil Myers: desperation and trying to keep his job.

The Mariners are a weird, toxic amalgam with no definition or plan and Zduriencik’s genius, like the classic sitcom Seinfeld, is about nothing. It worked in TV comedy and in glowing write-ups for Zduriencik before the fact. It’s not working so much at the ballpark and in practice. Nor is it going to for the Mariners in 2013.

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American League West—2012 Present and 2013 Future

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I examined the AL East here and the AL Central here.

Now let’s look at the AL West

Texas Rangers

The Rangers are heading for the playoffs again and are a legitimate threat to win the World Series. The one question they have is in the same area that cost them the World Series last year, the closer. Historically, Joe Nathan is good during the regular season and struggles during the playoffs, especially against the Yankees.

The roster has playoff experience; the hitters can mash; Josh Hamilton will want to have a big post-season to increase his paycheck as a free agent; their starting pitchers aren’t expecting to be pulled because of an arbitrary pitch count and have the strikeout capability to get out of trouble and pitch confidently with a great defense behind them.

Whether they win the World Series or not, the upcoming off-season could be one of transition for the Rangers. In addition to Hamilton being a free agent, so are Mike Napoli, Mike Adams, and Ryan Dempster. This can be seen as a negative, but it’s also a positive. They have flexibility to do a great many things, the nerve to follow through on them, and the farm system to make it possible.

There’s been talk that they might be willing to trade Elvis Andrus to make room for Jurickson Profar, but I think it’s more likely that they’ll entertain trade offers for Ian Kinsler, play Profar at second base, and try to get Michael Young’s contract off the books in the deal. They’ve had interest in Ike Davis in the past and the Mets are going to be willing to make drastic moves.

They won’t break the bank for Adams and they have starting pitching to let Dempster go. They’ll set a price for Napoli and if another team surpasses it, will let him leave. I think he ultimately stays.

That leaves Hamilton.

The Rangers are not going to give him $200 million. I wouldn’t expect them to want to give him $140 million, nor would they like to commit to him for 6-8 years. The question becomes: Will there be a team that’s willing to pay Hamilton anything close to his asking price?

I don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t. The teams with the money—the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Phillies, Cubs—either don’t need Hamilton at that price or wouldn’t risk putting him in their towns with his history of substance abuse problems.

The Tigers have been mentioned, but I don’t see that either.

What then?

He won’t get 8 years, but I can see the Rangers going to 5 with an easily reachable set of options if he’s clean off the field and healthy on it to make it a 7-8 year deal. The Rangers have other choices such as B.J. Upton or Shane Victorino or by making a trade. Hamilton doesn’t.

Oakland Athletics

The A’s accumulated a lot of young talent last off-season as they cleared out Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Andrew Bailey—that was known. But no one could’ve predicted that their young pitching would come so far so fast; that Yoenis Cespedes would be the impact bat he’s been; that Josh Reddick would become a 30 homer man; or that they’d be on the cusp of making the playoffs.

The financial and ballpark problems that made it necessary for the A’s to restart their rebuild and make those trades are still present. They need a new ballpark and don’t have a lot of money to spend to bring in players; in spite of their good play, they’re still only 12th in the American League in attendance. With that young pitching and the concession when they hired Bob Melvin to replace the overmatched Bob Geren that not just anyone can manage a big league team and be successful, they have the talent to be at least respectable and possibly very good for years to come.

Stephen Drew and Brandon McCarthy are free agents at the end of the season, but both have a good chance to stay with the A’s.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

They have a chance to salvage 2012 and make it to the Wild Card play in game. With a veteran team loaded with starting pitching and power bats, once they’re in the playoffs they’re a threat.

That doesn’t gloss over the management issues that aren’t going to go away.

Mike Scioscia is not the right manager for a team loaded with power hitting stars. He wants to hit and run, play defense, and rely on his pitching. The front office has a new, stat-based, “my manager will take orders” GM Jerry Dipoto, and an owner Arte Moreno who may be tired of making the playoffs just about every year and losing in large part because of his manager’s stubbornness in doing things his way in spite of talent and reality.

Scioscia is signed through 2018 with an opt-out after 2015, but if he wants to leave or they want to fire him, that’s what will happen. It’s not easy to function when one’s power is essentially taken away and that’s what happened with Scioscia. There’s been talk that he’d be a possible candidate to take over for Bobby Valentine with the Red Sox, but since the Red Sox are going back to their own stat-based roots and have publicly said that Bill James will take a larger role in putting their team together, Scioscia would be in the same situation in Boston that he’s in with the Angels. Forget it.

I have a hard time seeing Scioscia managing the Angels next season no matter what happens this season.

On the field, they owe Vernon Wells $42 million through 2014; Torii Hunter’s contract is expiring; they have a team option on Dan Haren; and Zack Greinke is a free agent.

The Angels will look markedly different in 2013, probably with a new manager who’s more in tune with strategies that fit the roster and what the front office wants.

Seattle Mariners

Getting rid of Ichiro Suzuki was a major step in a positive direction. But years and years of losing is finally taking a toll on their attendance figures. The Mariners fanbase is loyal and ten years ago, they had the highest attendance in the Major Leagues. Now they’re tenth. Until they start winning, that’s not going to improve.

They’re loaded with young pitching and led by a true megastar Felix Hernandez. They have some talented bats like Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager, but are plain woeful offensively. Once they have some hitters to go along with that pitching, they’ll be a viable threat, but this ineptitude at the plate is going back a decade just like their attendance decline.

Chone Figgins and Franklin Gutierrez are owed a combined $15.5 million in 2013, but if they take a bad contract and some money (Jason Bay?) maybe they can clear those players and try something different. Apart from that, they have money to spend and prospects to trade to pursue bats such as Justin Upton and B.J. Upton; Mike Morse; Justin Morneau; or possibly try to trade for Jacoby Ellsbury.

Unless they find some people who can produce offensively, the results are not going to change.

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The Ike Davis Trade Rumor Mania

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I would trade Ike Davis if I could get what I want for him. What I’d want for him would be a legitimate outfield bat like Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks; a package centered around Dustin Ackley and one of the Mariners’ young pitchers; or in a deal for the Rockies’ Dexter Fowler and Drew Pomeranz.

Lucas Duda is a better overall hitter than Davis, will hit 25-30 homers if he plays every day, hits lefties better, has a more discerning eye at the plate, can play first base well enough defensively, and hasn’t accrued—in a ridiculously short period of time—the reputation as a whiner and umpire-baiter as Davis has. Davis is streaky; Duda has a compact swing that would be resistant to long slumps.

This is not a controversy nor is it a new concept that the Mets would be willing to part with Davis. His name was bandied about as long ago as last winter when he was recovering from his ankle injury and before he was reported to have contracted Valley Fever. Back then, they wouldn’t have gotten much of anything for him other than a similarly talented player whose future was in doubt. Now, with a big power year, he’s a trade chip. Davis is a limited player who is not, under any circumstances, untouchable.

The frenzy over the Mets willingness to listen on Davis stems from where it came from and why. ESPNNewYork.com Mets beat writer Adam Rubin cited an unnamed source that implied the organization is unhappy with Davis’s unwillingness to listen to coaching suggestions and that he stays out too late after games. Rubin doesn’t say the source is anyone involved with the Mets, but the reaction on Twitter seemed to automatically think it did come from the Mets. Rubin’s piece says nothing of the sort. It says a “baseball source,” which could be anyone from anywhere.

There were even suggestions that the source doesn’t exist; that Rubin made it up to write the story. While there are so-called writers who would have no qualms about creating a phony source; talking to a team mascot outside the stadium and quoting him or her as an “employee” and “insider”; or making one up entirely (see Sherman, Joel of the Post, New York), I don’t believe Rubin would do that.

The conspiracy theories had grown to such loony proportions that it was only a matter of time before Rubin took refuge at the Ecuadorean Embassy seeking asylum from his pursuers a la Julian Assange.

There’s an irrational hatred of the Mets that is difficult to understand and much of it stems from their own beat writers (not Rubin) and those who classify themselves as “lifelong Mets fans” such as Howard Megdal, yet take joy in attacking the organization no matter what they do. Did someone from the Mets drop this nugget to Rubin to send a message to Davis? If so, it’s highly doubtful that they haven’t said it to Davis privately. Putting it out there publicly could be a message for Davis to tone it down. Or it could’ve come from someone who’s not involved with the Mets at all and is relating what he’s been told as the club lays the foundation for a possible trade. It might be speculation based on whispers floating in the air.

We don’t know.

There’s a freedom inherent with using an unnamed source and the reaction tends to be mindless and agenda-laden. If you read what Rubin wrote, there’s no case to finding a guilty party with the Mets, but like the game of telephone, it grew in intensity as if something was said by someone, somewhere and no one knows who, what, or why.

The ancillaries are meaningless. The facts are highly relevant. And the facts are that while the story has veered off into a direction of blame and accusation centered around the Mets and Rubin, trading Davis is a viable idea that the Mets should pursue if they can get what they need to make themselves better.

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Managers/GMs on the 2012 Hotseat

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It’s never too early to talk about who might be in trouble in the front office and dugout.

Let’s take a look.

Jack Zduriencik, GM—Seattle Mariners

Zduriencik was hired in late October of 2008. In retrospect, the worst thing that could’ve happened for the Mariners was the turnaround from 2008-2009 when they went from 61-101 to 85-77.

The 2008 team wasn’t 100-loss bad. They sustained crippling injuries to closer J.J. Putz and would-be ace #2 Erik Bedard and the entire season came apart. By the end of May, they were 15 games under .500 and double-digits out of first place.

When the news came out that Mike Morse had signed a contract extension with the Nationals, the trade Zduriencik made sending Morse to Washington for Ryan Langerhans was referenced on Twitter along with the now-laughable ranking of the Mariners of the sixth best organization in baseball a couple of years ago.

The trending topic is #6org as if it’s the most absurd thing in the world.

But, like the rise from 100-losses to moderate contention in the span of a year, it’s all in the details.

Zduriencik has done many good things as he’s reduced the Mariners’ payroll from $117 million when he took over to around $94 million in 2012. His drafts have yielded Dustin Ackley, Daniel Hultzen and Kyle Seager.

He’s also done some stupid things like signing Chone Figgins and engaged in activities that, at best, are described as amoral such as trading for Josh Lueke, signing Milton Bradley and double-dealing on the Yankees in the Cliff Lee trade negotiations.

It’s not all his fault. Some of what’s happened has been forced on him by the front office (re-signing Ken Griffey Jr. and keeping Ichiro Suzuki). But he got the credit for the 2009 rise, he gets the blame for everything else. That’s how it works.

The Mariners are in a nightmarish division and just pulled off a risky trade sending Michael Pineda and prospect Jose Campos to the Yankees for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi. We won’t know the true end result of this trade for years, but if Pineda pitches well in pinstripes and Montero and Noesi don’t live up to expectations, that could be it for Zduriencik. The “right track” stuff won’t play if the Mariners again lose 90 games and with his contract running through 2013, Zduriencik may be running out of time.

Fredi Gonzalez, Manager—Atlanta Braves

Much to the chagrin of the more dialed-in Braves fans, unless they start the season 10-25, he’s not going anywhere.

He did a poor job last season even before the collapse that drove the Braves from a playoff spot that should’ve been assured. His strategic decisions were occasionally nonsensical and he appeared defensive and borderline arrogant in justifying the way he ran his team.

Do the Braves have an on-staff replacement and if they make a change? Would they be willing to hire an unproven Terry Pendleton? Probably not.

One intriguing option was Terry Francona, but Francona joined ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball and I doubt he’s going to step out of the booth and back on the field in 2012. I’m getting the feeling that he took his interviews with the Cubs and Cardinals right after leaving the Red Sox looking to keep managing and when he didn’t get those jobs, he came to terms with broadcasting as a new career option and will enjoy being around the game without the stifling pressure from managing in Boston for 8 years—pressure that negatively affected his health.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Francona doesn’t return to managing at all for the foreseeable future.

The one name that’s possible with Gonzalez—not likely, but possible if the season is spiraling out of control and needs to be saved—is Bobby Cox.

The veterans would welcome him back and while he’d be reluctant to replace his hand-picked successor, if John Schuerholz and Frank Wren tell Cox that Gonzalez is gone whether he takes the job or not, he’ll take the job. Chipper Jones could go to upper management and says enough’s enough with Gonzalez and try to convince Cox to take over for the rest of the season.

Remember that Cox didn’t want to move from GM to manager in 1990 when Russ Nixon was fired and Cox subsequently stayed until 2010 and wrote his ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Dusty Baker, Manager—Cincinnati Reds

Baker and GM Walt Jocketty have never been on the same page. Baker’s contract is up at the end of the season and the only thing that saved him from being fired at the conclusion of his last contract in 2010 was that he won the NL Central.

As evidenced by trading a large chunk of their minor league system for Mat Latos and the signings of Ryan Madson and Ryan Ludwick, the Reds are going for it now and have to win.

There’s no veteran successor on staff and Francona would be an option in Cincinnati if he were looking to get back in the dugout, but he’s not.

One interesting scenario is if Tony LaRussa is bored in retirement and his old cohort from Oakland and St. Louis, Jocketty, comes calling. LaRussa and Baker despise each other and it probably wouldn’t sit well with several of the Reds players, but if they’re not fulfilling their mandate, they’d have no one to blame but themselves and, like the Red Sox with Bobby Valentine, would have to deal with the consequences.

It won’t matter because the Reds are going to play well this year and Baker’s a survivor, but the expiring contract is hovering over the manager and team.

They’d better get off to a good start.

Brad Mills, Manager—Houston Astros

The new front office led by Jeff Luhnow kept Mills, but that may be because it makes no sense to pay a different manager to run a team that’s going to lose 100 games in 2012 regardless of who’s in the manager’s office.

Mills’s contract is up at the end of the season. The Astros mess is not his fault and he seems to be a competent manager, but Luhnow and new owner Jim Crane inherited him and it’s only fair that they hire their own man if that’s what they’d like to do.

One can only hope they don’t hire a new manager and, like Sig Mejdal’s new age title of “Director of Decision Sciences”, they choose to refer to the manager as “Director of On-Field Strategic Interpretations and Implementations”.

Maybe they’ll hire Keith Law to manage the team. I know I’d love to see that as he deals with Brett Myers.

That would be a narrative!

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Mid-Season Trade Candidates for 2012—Felix Hernandez

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Every year at around this time, I pick a few players who normally wouldn’t be available on the trade market and envision scenarios in which they’ll be dealt.

In the past two years, I’ve been right on two who were considered untouchable—Dan Haren and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Let’s spend Christmas with postings on players who fit this profile for mid-season 2012 and start with Mariners righty Felix Hernandez.

The Mariners are still getting calls on Hernandez and they’ll continue to get calls on Hernandez.

Until the Mariners are in a position where they need Hernandez to compete, teams will puruse him; at some point, the answer may change from “not available” to “I’ll listen” and they’ll let it be known he can be had.

How could it happen?

There are ways.

GM Jack Zduriencik could decide that his best asset will yield the biggest return and a team like the Yankees gets crazy and offer 4-5 players for him; or—and this is the most likely scenario—Hernandez grows frustrated with working so hard for a team with no chance of contending and seeing his prime years go to waste that he quietly asks to be moved.

That’s the key word: quiet.

If it’s out there that Hernandez is in play, the Mariners have to trade him; if it’s kept quiet, they can sift through the offers and make a decision based on what best fits their needs.

The Mariners are sort of on the right track and have been sabotaged by bad luck, tragedy and mistaken judgments both personal and professional. Dustin Ackley’s going to be a star; Michael Pineda is an impressive power arm; unless ownership forces Zduriencik to keep him, they’re going to be free from Ichiro Suzuki in the near future as the mercurial right fielder’s contract is up after 2012; and right now, they’re in the market to spend some money on Prince Fielder.

But the Angels and Rangers are tough competition and by June or July, the frustration could lead to the point of the pitcher saying enough’s enough.

And I think it’s going to happen. He’s signed through 2014 and he’s coveted. The Mariners can rebuild the team in one shot if they get the right package and judging from what the Padres were able to pry loose from the Reds for Mat Latos and what the A’s got from the Nationals for Gio Gonzalez, Hernandez could acquire a greater bounty of blue-chip players.

For a team that’s unlikely to contend for 2012 and probably 2013, what good will it do them to have Hernandez fronting the rotation in his contract year of 2014 when they might—might—be ready to make a playoff run?

It wouldn’t. Hernandez is never going to be more valuable to them than he will be in July of 2012 and if they’re hovering around .500 or worse and out of the race in an impossible division, it makes sense to move him for a group of players who will assist them in multiple areas when they are ready to win.

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Zduriencik Deserves At Least One More Year

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The Mariners agreed to a contract extension (of the multi-year variety according to MLB Trade Rumors) with GM Jack Zduriencik.

We can debate how good or bad a job Zduriencik has done; he’s done some smart things and some stupid things along with things that may have made sense but didn’t work.

It’s fair that he gets more time.

I said before the season that if the Mariners had another series of off-field incidents and evidence of front office anarchy, Zduriencik had to go. That hasn’t happened.

On the field, they played over their heads for the first half of the season before the wheels came off due to a pitching staff that could no longer counteract an atrocious offense. They need to see what they have with full 2012 seasons from Dustin Ackley and Carlos Peguero along with continued improvement from Michael Pineda and excellence from Felix Hernandez.

He has to upgrade the offense somehow.

What I find interesting about the linked piece is that there are no details as to why some of Zduriencik’s moves were “memorable”.

The deal that sent Cliff Lee to the Rangers was more notable for his double-dealing on the Yankees and that he acquired an accused sex offender, Josh Lueke, which led to major fallout and contretemps from both the Mariners and Rangers.

The Brandon Morrow for Brandon League looks better now that League has been closing and made the All Star team, but that was more than a baseball move; it was done for Morrow’s own good and he’s still got a ways to go in fulfilling his potential with the Blue Jays; no matter what happens, Zduriencik can’t be faulted for it even if Morrow becomes a superstar.

Zduriencik’s plan has been partially sabotaged by the foolish anointing of “genius” based on partisanship and idiocy; that the Mariners drastically overachieved in his first season; and ownership has interfered in decisions that the GM surely would not have made (bringing Ken Griffey Jr. back in 2010 for example).

Let’s see if they let him do what he’d undoubtedly prefer to do and let Ichiro Suzuki walk after 2012 (or even try to trade him this winter); that will be a clearer window into whether he’s going to be allowed to do his job the way he wants to do it.

If they don’t, this extension makes little sense.

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Let Zduriencik Run The Mariners And Get Rid Of Ichiro

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I’ve been a critic of Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.

Actually, I’ve been more of a voice of reason about him.

While he was continually being referred to as a “genius”, I tried to provide pause to that silly appellation. He’s not a genius; he’s not a moron. He’s a baseball GM who’s made some good moves (drafting Dustin Ackley); some bad moves (Chone Figgins); some morally repugnant decisions (Josh Lueke; firing/blaming Don Wakamatsu); some of questionable tactics (the sleight-of-hand machinations in trading Cliff Lee); and some that made sense but didn’t work (Milton Bradley).

But in this Geoff Baker piece concerning the future of Ichiro Suzuki, it’s clear that Zduriencik has to at least try to set a boundary as to what’s good for the organization on the field.

As Baker points out, the idea that Ichiro should be placed in the same category as Derek Jeter was with the Yankees is nonsense. But I’d go a step further than Baker—the Mariners not only shouldn’t extend Ichiro, but they should see if they can trade him this winter.

Never mind the difficulty in finding a taker for Ichiro and his contract ($17 million for 2012) and that the player is probably not going to accept a trade anywhere; they should try because he’s pretty much used up his value to them on the field and needs to go for the good of Ichiro and the Mariners.

Could Ichiro be convinced that he would have a better chance of winning if he went to another team? Who knows? I’d say no, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

The question that has to be presented to the meddlers in ownership is this: do you want to have a winning team or do you want to continue on with the Ichiro charade as if he’s an institution along the lines of Jeter?

Ichiro is useless to the Mariners as they’re currently constructed; signing him to an extension beyond 2012 would be a disaster even if he rebounds next season to something close to what he’s been in past years. The days of him being a focal point for the offense (and defense) are over; the team has had him and been bad for six of the past eight years; they’re not going to get better with him, so they should move on without him.

The Mariners have dispatched “icons” like Ken Griffey, Jr; Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez and were better because of it. Why can’t they do the same with Ichiro?

There are trades that could possibly be completed to get rid of Ichiro.

Would they take Carlos Zambrano from the Cubs? Putting Zambrano in a rotation with his countryman Felix Hernandez and getting him out of Chicago, along with the promise of free agency after next season could yield a strong year from Zambrano. I know they’ve been down this road with the Cubs when they got Bradley, but the salaries of Ichiro and Zambrano are nearly a wash.

I doubt Ichiro could ever be convinced to accept a trade to the Cubs.

To the Red Sox for John Lackey? Lackey has over $46 million coming to him including a bonus if he’s traded, so the Mariners would have to take on a significant amount of cash; but the Lackey-Boston marriage is a failure; moving him to a pitcher-friendly ballpark in Seattle and back to the AL West could return him to his Angels form.

Ichiro might be convinced that Boston is a good place for him to play and his game—defense, singles and speed—would be useful for the Red Sox because they, unlike the Mariners, have people to drive Ichiro in. The change of scenery might wake his bat from the stagnation that he’s experiencing with the woeful and rebuilding Mariners.

The Mets for Jason Bay? Again, they’re taking on money, but Bay’s only guaranteed $32 million through 2013. Bay has a full no-trade clause, but my guess is he’d waive it to get out of New York; would Ichiro be willing to accept a trade to the Mets?

The bottom line is this: it’s time for both sides to part and ownership is making Zduriencik’s life difficult—almost impossible—to turn things around with Ichiro on the team.

Judging from Baker’s article though, they’re going to again force Zduriencik to do something that’s not going to do anyone in Seattle any good at all. And it’s a terrible idea.

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When A Positive Becomes A Negative

All Star Game, Books, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Trade Rumors

With the Mariners having lost an obscene 15 games in a row and beginning a series with the Yankees tonight, their rebuilding project has hit another sticking point.

They were at .500 when this streak started and GM Jack Zduriencik was looking to buy rather than sell.

That’s long gone.

What happens with Zduriencik remains to be seen. He was clearly on thin ice last season not because of the 100-losses, but because of the haphazard and, at best, dysfunctional way in which the team was run.

The excuses for what was there when Zduriencik arrived are all well and good: “The farm system was barren”; “The team was terrible”; “There were bloated contracts and a lack of analytics”; etc.

Fair.

Accurate.

But this team is an embarrassment. Most of the current club’s future were in place before Zduriencik was hired. Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, Greg Halman and Carlos Peguero were in the organization.

We don’t know how the drafts under Zduriencik have gone. Dustin Ackley is going to be a star. But we won’t know how well or poorly they did in their selections and other amateur acquisitions for quite awhile.

And the big league team he’s put together is atrocious.

Is Justin Smoak the player he was earlier in the season or is he the slumping youngster he is now? He’s hit at every level, so he’s going to eventually hit in the big leagues. But what else has Zduriencik done to distinguish himself as anything more than misplaced hype based on an agenda?

Zduriencik has brought in Chone Figgins, Jack Wilson, Milton Bradley and Ian Snell—none of whom worked out and many have been utter disasters. He’s done a lot of things that have made no sense like trading for Russell Branyan at mid-season 2010 after letting him leave as a free agent the previous winter and surrendering a youngster who looks like he can play, Ezequiel Carrera, to do it.

Yes, he got Brandon League who was an All Star in 2011, but he traded Brandon Morrow to do it.

He did Morrow a favor by trading him after the unfulfilled promise with the Mariners and that he was never going to get past having been drafted before Tim Lincecum, but it’s a recurring nightmare that for every decision that’s worked, five haven’t.

Everything—the shady trading practices; inexplicable and backwards statements; indecision as to what they are and where they’re headed; sacrificial blame games that were perpetrated on former manager Don Wakamatsu—all adds up to the albatross of heightened expectations.

The combination of his reputation as a scout with an understanding and adherence to advanced stats, the gambler’s mentality in making drastic moves like trading J.J. Putz to the Mets and getting Cliff Lee from the Phillies and that the team radically overachieved in his first season without Zduriencik having done anything significant to improve the team led to the belief that things were getting better faster than they were; faster than they should’ve.

If the Mariners had it to do over again, I’m sure they would quietly admit that they’d have been better off having a 71-91 year in 2009 rather than 85-77. No one would’ve been surprised and the desperation to win immediately would’ve been lessened.

They would’ve had the opportunity to grow organically without the crafted narrative surrounding a non-existent, stat-based revolution the type we’re seeing come crashing to the ground with Moneyball and the Athletics train wreck along with the requisite excuses for the failures that are becoming more and more ludicrous.

A few days ago, I wrote that considering everything that happened with the Mariners in 2010, 2011’s positives couldn’t be ignored despite this horrific run.

That’s still true.

But I’m looking at things from a perch of indifference. I couldn’t care less what Zduriencik’s beliefs in building a club are and I’m not desperate to have my theories proven as “right”. I’m seeing things as they were and as they are. He wasn’t a “genius” nor an “Amazin’ Exec” when he took over and he’s not that now. Nor is he a fool.

But the fans are undoubtedly exhausted by all that’s gone south for the Mariners since that 85-win season. The reputation was media-created, but no one wants to hear that as they’re setting franchise records for losing streaks.

Patience may be wearing thin in Seattle with the regime. And given the work they’ve done—work that is documented and found to be wanting on and off the field—it’s easy to understand why.

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MLB Trade Deadline Stories 7.22.2011

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Trade Rumors

I don’t do rumormongering just for the sake of it; everything here is my own speculation as to what makes sense and/or analysis of what’s being said.

Of course “sense”, “logic” and “reality” often has little to do with what’s presented as a story.

Let’s take a look.

Keeping Izzy.

I don’t buy the “Mets are not trading Jason Isringhausen” stuff. If it’s August and the team has faded, he should be on the table.

But only if it makes sense.

Unless they’re offered something that the Mets really like (and it won’t be a top prospect), they’re not getting a lot for a pitcher who’s likely to retire at the end of the year and has had multiple arm problems. And the concept of Isringhausen mentoring the younger pitchers who are going to get a shot at closing—Bobby Parnell and Pedro Beato among them—is legitimate.

In 2006, it was Isringhausen who guided Adam Wainwright through the unfamiliar terrain of moving from a career starter in the minors and long reliever in the majors as a rookie, to being a post-season closer.

It worked out pretty well for the Cardinals in the long and short term as Wainwright helped them to a championship, then slotted into the rotation as one of the best pitchers in baseball who had a post-season pedigree for getting the big outs.

If Isringhausen can impart similar wisdom for the Mets, he’d be more valuable than any low-level minor leaguer they’d get in a trade.

Mariners awful stretch shouldn’t detract from the positives of 2011.

A year ago, the Mariners were 38-60 after 98 games; this year after a 12-game losing streak, they’re 43-55.

They were considering being buyers at the trading deadline before that losing streak, but now they’ve fallen essentially to where they were expected to be before the season.

That doesn’t mean it’s all negative.

Last season, the team was in absolute disarray on-and-off the field with poor behaviors, a lack of respect for the manager and shady dealings in trades.

They were a disaster.

Now with Eric Wedge bringing order in the clubhouse and young players Dustin Ackley (who reminds me of Chase Utley—a very good thing) and Michael Pineda arriving on the scene, there are positives now where there were few a year ago beyond Felix Hernandez.

They still have one of the worst offenses I’ve ever seen and are saddled with Chone Figgins‘s onerous contract and Ichiro Suzuki—two collapsing singles hitters are owed a combined $34 million.

They still have a lot of work to do and a lot of dead money to subtract.

They’re not close to contending, but even as they spiral towards 95 losses again, it’s not as all-around bad as it was in 2010.

In a way, it’s progress.

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